Stress is a feeling created from our reactions to particular events, thoughts, and/or situations. Stressors are events that provoke these feelings. These events can pretty much be anything…from a challenging homework assignment to a car accident.
Hypothalamus – A gland that is located in the lower part of your brain. This gland is an important link between your endocrine and nervous systems. It influences your pituitary gland to release certain hormones.
Pituitary Gland – A gland at the base of the brain. Receives information from the hypothalamus gland (sense of temperature, change in emotions, light exposure) and secretes hormones accordingly.
Adrenal Gland – Located on top of each of your kidneys. Produce hormones that influence your body’s salt and water regulation, metabolism, immune system, response to stress. One of these hormones is adrenaline.
Adrenaline – A hormone released by the adrenal glands. Increase of this hormone is responsible for increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and energy in the body.
Cortisol – A hormone that increases sugars in the bloodstream. Makes substances responsible for bodily repairs more available. Also responsible for curbing the activities in your body that may not be essential while dealing with stress.
Our bodies are actually trained to physically react to stressful situations!
Your body’s reaction to stress is called a “stress response” or “fight or flight” reaction.
Here’s what’s involved…
When you experience a stressful event, a part of your brain called the hypothalamus sends signals to your pituitary and adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline and Cortisol. These are hormones that are released into your bloodstream and cause your heart to beat faster, your breathing to quicken, and your blood vessels to widen and carry more blood to different parts of your body. Your muscles, now supplied with more blood, are ready and alert to react. Your pupils will dilate to allow sharper vision. Even your liver is involved as it releases stored glucose to provide you with more energy. Of course when you think of stress, sweat comes to mind. Believe it or not, sweat has a purpose too! It keeps your body cool during this very active time. All of these changes, the natural response of your body, enable you to perform your best under acute pressure like giving a presentation or having a job interview.
In chronic or long term stressful situations, your body still senses pressure, but activates the stress response at a lower level. Examples of these situations would be going through the divorce of your parents or moving to a new town. Sometimes if this stress lasts for a very long time, it can take a toll on your body. Even though your “stress response” is acting at a lower level, it is still activated and releasing extra hormones and energy continuously. This depletion can cause you to feel extremely tired and overwhelmed, sometimes causing stress overload.
Stress overload is a feeling of an overwhelming amount of worry or anxiety…brought on by various pressures. Stress overload can also be caused by chronic stress lasting over a long period of time.
You may be experiencing a stress overload if you:
- are having panic attacks
- are irritable or moody
- feel as though you are constantly pressured
- feel that the pressure and stress is making you sick or in pain (stomachaches, back/chest pain, headaches)
- have trouble sleeping
- are feeling sad or depressed
- are doing too much drinking, smoking, eating
To prevent stress overload, it is important to know how you can deal with, reduce, and even eliminate stress.
Stress! Stay Away!
Don’t over-schedule yourself!
Over-scheduling can lead to feeling rushed, anxious, and even overtired…all triggers of stress. If you have too many activities on your plate then cut a few and keep the ones that are most important to you.
Set realistic expectations
Setting high expectations for yourself is helpful when it comes to challenging yourself and setting goals. However, you need to set these expectations with the realistic thinking that sometimes you may not always fulfill them. Having self discipline and a good work ethic are essential for accomplishing goals you set, but too much pressure and work can create unwanted stress.
Get your sleep!
Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep helps your body refuel and prepares you to handle whatever the day throws at you.
Take care of your body!
Eating well and staying active enables your body to be in the best condition to combat stress. Plus, exercise has been proven to improve mood and just make people happier in general. When you feel better, you tend to have a more positive attitude.
Thinking in a positive way can have a huge impact on your day. Your outlook on a situation can influence solutions you come up with and decisions you make. Is your cup half full or half empty? View situations as temporary and solvable…take this as a challenge and opportunity to learn something new. Negative thoughts tend to create sad, depressed, and impatient moods…none of which are helpful in any stressful situation. Being positive will influence the way people react to and support you.
Learn to activate your “relaxation response”
The “relaxation response” is your body’s natural way to avoid stress. This response is activated when you participate in calming activities. Take the time to do something you enjoy everyday…maybe take a bath, play with a pet, listen to music, or indulge in an enjoyable hobby. These feelings of relaxation give your body a break from being on the go constantly.
Common causes of stress
Internal vs external causes
- Your Fears – some common fears include public speaking, flying, and heights
- Your Emotions/Feelings – lack of control, uncertainty, anxiety, self confidence
- Your Beliefs – attitudes, opinions, expectations of others and yourself
- Your body – puberty is stressful!
- Life changes – new school, college, move to a new town, death of a loved one/pet, parent divorce
- Job/Career – pressures by your boss, time management, deadlines, pay cuts, promotions, co-workers, commute
- School – homework, tests, presentations, time management
- Environment – weather, dogs barking, traffic
- Unpredictable experiences – car accidents, family issues, finances
- Social – dances, peer pressure, meeting new people, school, sports
Stress happens…learn how to deal
Improve your mood
Don’t dwell on the negative! Unhappy feelings can drag you down. Overcoming a stressful situation requires a positive attitude and the ability to be open minded.
There are positive things that happen everyday. At the end of each day, take a moment to think about 3 happy things about your day. This helps you keep some of the small and big problems of each day in perspective.
Identify the issue
Take a moment to think about the situation you are dealing with. Write down anything about it that is causing you to feel stressed. Next, identify and write down your feelings about the situation. Are you anxious, angry, sad, scared? Finally, find out as much information as you can. Talk to the people who are in or are familiar with this situation. Knowing as many specifics as possible can help you figure out what to expect. Also, those you talk to may be able to provide you with advice and support.
Take action with the small things
Maintain some control over your life by addressing each problem, no matter how small, as soon as it presents itself. Become accustomed to assessing each situation, laying out your options, and making a decision to solve a problem. Doing this each day helps prevent the smaller issues from building up and then getting out of hand…creating a larger amount of stress.
Know your support
Family and friends can be helpful when you have to make a tough decision or just need to talk. Just verbalizing your worries or anxieties can be therapeutic… in addition that outside person may have insight you haven’t considered. That dramatic situation that you’ve been dealing with may be easy to solve after all.
Know how to destress
Find out what relaxes YOU. Make sure you take part of your day to do something you enjoy…that will take your mind off your troubles. Tension caused by stress can be relieved by going for a run, listening to your favorite playlist, taking a walk outside, watching a show that makes you laugh, or even learning breathing and meditation exercises. Practicing an activity that calms you can help you create a mindset that fosters a positive attitude for problem solving.